Failed Experiments in Compost

It was a day of yard work.  The in-laws took the kids for the afternoon which allowed my wife and I to clean the house inside and out.  The weather was sublime, the sky was clear and the sun beat down.

We have an area of the backyard dedicated to collecting and keeping compost.  Kitchen refuse, the colorful leaves of autumn, and all the various brown and green stuff that should not head straight for a landfill finds its way back there.  The area is hidden behind a dying spruce, a swing set, and a couple of other trees.  With no snow, no rain and an opportunity to finally spend some time there today I was met with a really fun surprise.

Christmas trees decay for crap (but make for really cool pictures).

The tree went back there in January.  I dragged it back there out of equal parts curiosity of what would happen and being too lazy to take it to a recycling center.  So here we are months later and I have the opportunity to look over the experiment.  Let’s assume there was a hypothesis that the needles would fall off.  The result is actually a big brown tree most likely acting a mouse motel.  Extended stay, free HBO, and a snack machine at the end of the hall kind of motel too.

What surprised me, after taking the time to actually look at the tree, was its ability to retain its shape.  It was like gravity had skipped this six foot area.  Dried, long dead needles are not going anywhere.  The trunk is fully intact.  I imagine whacking the thing with a shovel a few times could change the situation, but the kids would have to be away again for that.  If there is one thing I do not want a four year old to know it is how to beat a tree with a shovel.  That will only bring pain.

Next year’s tree will be heading to a recycling center.  Our town apparently mulches trees and makes the finished product available for all who want it.  That is a much better use of a tree.  This tree, this dried out pyramid of needles and wood, has a good future ahead of it though.  It has been added to a pile of leaves which will hopefully speed the break down and in a few years it may be used in a garden.  Patience is pretty much the key to his whole composting thing.  Boring, boring patience.

Well, I imagine not just leaving a tree in an unused section of the yard could have a positive effect on the desired result.  I’m really not good at this whole thing.

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